With a new advisory service, agritech startup KhetiGaadi aims to stop India’s farmlands from dying

Pune-based agritech startup KhetGaadi launched KhetiGuru in early April 2022 to provide farmers with technical and science-backed assistance for crop and farm-related issues.
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Drive across some of India’s biggest agricultural states and the landscape raises questions. Large swathes of shoddily demarcated farmlands in the country’s interiors lay bare.

A study by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) revealed that 30 percent of India’s farms today are dead, thanks to climate change and bad farming practices.

Even farmers are switching careers, moving to the cities in search of greener pastures, figuratively speaking. A Census 2011 study showed that 2,000 farmers give up farming every day.

KhetiGaadi, a Pune-based agritech startup hopes to change that.

Founded in 2016 as a marketplace that helped farmers buy, sell, and rent tractors, KhetiGaadi has today evolved into an ecommerce platform of sorts for farmers. It sells farming equipment, seeds, nourishing fertilisers, and a miscellany of other farming-related products, as well as offers fintech services such as tractor loans, crop insurance etc. — helping farmers access an array of services on a single platform.

The startup has been pushing into two areas more meaningfully and deeply than before:

  1. Providing advisory services to farmers
  2. Helping farmers understand soil micronutrition and address the lack of it more closely

The startup claims to have over 50 lakh farmers on its app, as well as thousands of farm OEMs and tractor dealers that offer services to its network.

Advisory services

Founded by Vishnu Dhas and Pravin Shinde, KhetiGaadi launched KhetiGuru earlier this month, a free advisory platform for farmers.

Under KhetiGuru, farmers get two types of basic services:

  • Farm tools and equipment recommendations: Going by the total size of a farmer’s land, the crop he is growing, and other factors, KhetiGuru suggests implements that will help him farm better.
  • Agricultural input recommendations: The startup helps farmers troubleshoot any issues with their lands, such as soil nutrition degradation, seed diseases, pests, crop losses, etc. This intervention, especially if it’s done in a timely manner, can potentially prevent farms from dying, the startup claims.

Anyone interested in availing of the free advisory service has to call up a number (8007003377), and they will be connected to one of the 50 agronomists on KhetiGaadi’s panel, who will then talk through the issue with the farmer, Vishnu tells YourStory in a conversation.

"With KhetiGuru, the idea is to handhold farmers throughout the crop cycle, and help them minimise the use of harmful chemicals such as pesticides that deplete the soil potential, by focussing on soil micronutrition," he adds.

(Image source: KhetiGaadi)

KhetiGaadi has also developed its own line of soil nutrition supplements and other natural products that can help crops grow better, which it recommends to farmers struggling with any issues. The startup claims that the products — some of which use nanotechnology — took six months of rigorous research and development to take shape. Vishnu says the two founders were both personally involved in their making.

The farm equipment advisory service, which is free, often translates into sales for the startup since they’re easily available on the platform itself and farmers don’t have to go out looking for them.

Since April 2, when it was launched, nearly 3,000 farmers have availed KhetiGuru’s services, says Vishnu. The co-founders are now focused on taking the product to agricultural states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.

From zero to 1

A lot of Khetigaadi’s success can be chalked up to the two founders’ own backgrounds. Both Vishnu and Pravin hail from farmer families in Maharashtra, and had seen their own parents toil their days away.

For Vishnu, this instilled in him, from a very young age, the desire to create something of his own, on his own, and he was an industrious kid even when he was growing up. At the age of seven, he got his first job shelling peanuts for a farmer who paid him 50 paise for every kilogram, which gave him the freedom to buy snacks and chocolate without having to depend on his parents who had already been working hard.

At around 13, Vishnu worked at a manufacturing unit making steel rings, paying for his tuition and school. And then, at the videocassette library at the age of 16, which paid for his college education. After college, he spent nearly 20 years in the public relations and corporate communications industry.

Parallelly, Pravin, who hails from a farmer family in Maharashtra’s Satara district, pursued a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science, and later, spent more than 10 years working at his brother’s agrochemicals and fertilisers firm — a stint that brought him close to thousands of farmers in one of India’s leading agrarian districts.

It was in late 2015 when the duo met at a mutual acquaintance's wedding and became close friends. Then, they decided to return home to build something of their own for India’s villages at around the same time.

KhetiGaadi saw 50,000 farmers sign up on the platform within a year, and that number has only increased. In a 2020 interview with YourStory, the founders claimed there were around four million farmers on the platform.

In two years, this has risen to five million. Its gross merchandise volume (GMV) of Rs 50 crore in 2020 rose to Rs 1,500 crore in FY 2021-2022. And, the total GMV over the last five years has been around Rs 2,000 crore, says the co-founder. This is only expected to rise.

A large addressable market

India is a large agricultural market — the country’s biggest exports being agri-based — and there’s an immense market opportunity for innovation in the sector. According to an EY report, the Indian agritech market potential by 2025 is expected to be around $24 billion, and only one percent has been captured so far.

Startups like Ninjacart, Origo, DeHaat, CropIn, VilCart, among over 1000-plus that operate in the space, have impacted lakhs of farmers by providing services including financing, logistics, farming advisory, and market linkages (ecommerce platform, farm equipment and vehicle rental services, etc), among others.

At its core, KhetiGaadi connects farmers, tractor manufacturers, contractors, dealers, brokers, service stations, and agricultural experts. It also serves as a platform that matches farmers with agri-lenders and farm insurance providers.

But, the startup’s primary objective is to improve farmers’ access to modern equipment and make buying, selling, and renting hassle-free and transparent. It also educates and empowers the farming community with the right guidance on modern agricultural practices.

Vishnu says,

“India used to be a very philosophically developed agricultural nation — we used to use all-natural things to treat nature. It was slow but always sustainable. Western agricultural practices have destroyed India’s farmlands, and if things continue the way they are, in the next 45-50 years, we won’t be able to grow anything.”

"We want to change how farmers think about problems related to their crops. Instead of dumping more and more chemicals into the soil, we want to provide scientific guidance from credible sources such as agronomists on the best way to approach these problems," he signs off.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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